I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Long before I got diagnosed, but that particular point did have a way of focusing the mind.
What I’ve been thinking about is death. Now I appreciate that statement could appear gauche, or morbid, but please don’t think it is. As we get older we are forced to more and more come to terms with our humanity, our mortality and existence in general. This is a post of two halves. It may appear bleak to begin, but then I look at positives, so don’t think I’ve gone off the deep end too much!
I’m not a philosopher, or a religious man and I’m certainly not one of the great thinkers of our time. Even so I have given death and life real thought and so want to summarise in the crude tool which is words, below.
To set my stall out on this conversation, I don’t believe in a god, Christian, Muslim or Flying Spaghetti Monster. I believe we are a product of a series of unlikely events and are somehow produced from a set of multi-feature cells which, when combined, become the complex animal that is us.
The downside of this is that when you die, I think that’s it. No singing angels or pitchforks, just an unknowing, a stopping. This is difficult to get your head around. How can everything that is, was, and ever will be, the totality of me cease to exist? How can I so totally fade out of existence that I no longer am? That every thought, every deed, everything I ever do or want or think may as well never have happened, at least from my perspective, and in the longer term, from everyone’s. I won’t remember them. I won’t be here. Nor will you. The bright essence that is you or me will be extinguished never to return.
I am often reminded of the story that life is a raven flying into the window of a room full of light. There is laughing, dancing, somewhere a band plays. The raven glories in this but sooner or later he leaves the room through the window opposite and goes back to flying through eternal night.
Now this is all very morbid. I hear you cry, what is the point? What is the purpose? Why do we exist if there is no reckoning afterwards and all we are is an accident of evolution?
All good questions and they bring me on to the other side of the debate.There is an upside to this.
It’s the time spent in the room. The time spent with your loved ones, with the experiences, the food, the music, the life. Going back to this series of unlikely events we should marvel in its very existence. The statistical chance of you sitting there reading this is astronomical. A perfect series of events, single cells splitting at just the right time, history orchestrating events, chance meetings, genetic anomalies and cultural imperatives all happening at just the right moment and in just the right places. One single change of gene or one slight difference of history and you would never have existed. Your mother would not have met your father, or one particularly brave fish would not have left the salty brine. Don’t get me wrong, there might be someone else sitting there , but not you, not now. You might have had a slightly different childhood, a different school and someone would be there but it wouldn’t be you.
I can only glory at the infinite sea of chance than had to coalesce for me to be possible. An almost bewilderingly series of long odds against me existing. An even greater possibility against all my loved ones, my good friends, everyone I care about existing as they are with no differences. Their strengths, their flaws, how they think, how they act. Consider your children, your partners. If even a minor insignificant thing had changed it wouldn’t be them, it couldn’t be them. Or you.
The odds are staggering and I am so happy that I have been given this chance to live. Sure death is unknown, it’s scary, it’s downright depressing at times. Everything I have ever done will be futile in the lens of history. Every slight joy, every fear, you or I might experience, they don’t matter at all to anything, to history to fate, to the cosmos. They just don’t matter. Except to me and to you. Be it 80, 50 or even 30 years, the fact I exist at all is a miracle of nature. I can taste, see, feel. I can drink, eat, be sad, play games, exercise, love, live, hate, weep. These things aren’t insignificant when you consider the odds of having the chance to do them at all. I exist in this world, with my friends and family around me, against all odds. It’s almost enough to make you believe in some sort of god…
So don’t sit there and mope about your job, or the fact you have an ulcer, or that you have an incurable cancer, just consider how lucky you are to even exist and make the most of things. After all you only get the one chance. (Apology to Buddhists).
That’s what I’m thinking at the moment. Death is there and one day it will get you, but until then, do whatever makes you happy.